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The Effects of Employment on Influenza Rates

Sara Markowitz, Erik Nesson, Joshua Robinson

NBER Working Paper No. 15796
Issued in March 2010, Revised in August 2018
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Labor Studies

The seasonal influenza virus afflicts millions of people in the U.S. population each year, imposing significant costs on those who fall ill, their families, employers, and the health care system. The flu is transmitted via droplet spread or close contact, and certain environments, such as schools or offices, promote transmission. In this paper, we examine whether increases in employment are associated with increased incidence of the flu. We use state-level data on the prevalence of the flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In our preferred specification, we find that a one percentage point increase in the employment rate increases the number of influenza related doctor visits by about 16 percent, and these effects are highly pronounced in the retail sector and healthcare sector, the sectors with the highest levels of interpersonal contact.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15796

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